I can’t say I was one of the famous people like Aaron Sorkin (his article on Goldman for the L.A. Times is HERE) who was mentored by William Goldman. I wasn’t that lucky. But Goldman, who passed away last week, was an inspiration to me and thousands of other striving writers. For that reason, I wanted to take a moment and say thanks.
I could post the image above, just about anywhere in the world I think, and everyone would light up and go “OH, The Princess Bride! Love that story.” If all a writer wrote was that novel, he’d had ,lived up to his expectations when he started his artistic journey. But that wasn’t all Goldman, wrote.
For me, what stood out about Goldman was his versatility. There was the horror of Magic; the political thriller like All The President’s Men; the bittersweet story of Soldier In The Rain; and one of my favorites - Marathon Man. I once had a multi-hour discussion with another artist about the themes in the latter, particularly how obsession leads to tyranny.
Goldman won his first Oscar with Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. All his stories had lines that stuck like, “Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?”; “Follow the money”; or “Death doesn’t stop true love. It just delays it.” He was a writer’s writer. He knew how to appeal to all audiences. He knew how to make a story tight, memorable. And he gave the best writing advice in his first memoir with “Nobody knows anything.”
If you look closely, you will see that Goldman called himself and was labeled first and foremost a novelist even though most people will recall his screenplays. He thought like a novelist. A lot of his stories were born as novels. But I think he was one of the first giants to realize that the novel and the movies were merging in the way stories were told. Sure the formats are different, but the story itself, the paths have converged to a large degree.
No, I can’t say I ever had the fortune of meeting Mr. Goldman or even getting a glimpse of him. But I did see his brilliance in every page and line. I’ve been asked from time to time what writer do I aspire to be like and Goldman is always at the top of that list. The fact he helped other writers is a statement in itself. It doesn’t happen as often as it should. Maybe because writers are creatures of isolation by instinct.
So, on this Thanksgiving, while I had a moment. I just wanted to say thank you, Mr. Goldman, for inspiring us writers to keep raising the bar for ourselves. Thank you for defining our craft in a modern world. And of course, thank you for countless stories that will resonate with people for generations.